Friday, July 03, 2009

SCRAPING BY ON £342,500 A YEAR


Sir Fred Goodwin has accepted a reduction in his pension payout, but some claim
his charity is a PR exercise
"Sir Fred Goodwin, the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive who led the company to the brink of collapse and whose £16m pension provoked national outrage, has agreed to a £200,000 reduction in his annual payout. The 50-year-old, who was in charge of RBS when it recorded the worst losses ever seen by a British company, has volunteered to have his pension reduced from £555,000 a year to £342,500 – a cut of 38 per cent." (Independent, 19 June) RD

A $40MILLION BARGAIN

"Hedge fund supremo Louis Bacon, the founder of London-based Moore Capital, recently bought a house in Oyster Bay Cove, Long Island. I say "house" but the 17,900 sq ft, 10-bedroom, 10-bathroom, 15-fireplace, Normandy -style pile could safely be described as a mansion. That's not all. Located on the 60-acre estate, just past the tables, is an indoor tennis court. Yup, indoor tennis. ... Northwood has been on the market for almost three years, with a price tag of up to $40m (£24m)." (Sunday Times, 28 June) RD

Thursday, July 02, 2009

CHRIST AND CAPITALISM

"Any reasonable reading of the Gospels will tell you that Christ was not automatically hostile to people who are in wealthy occupations." Stephen Green, HSBC chairman and Anglican priest. (Observer, 28 June) RD

LOADED BUT LOONY

"Shari Arison, Israel's richest woman and the controlling shareholder of the country's second-largest bank, said on Sunday she has visions and receives messages "from above," but they do not influence the management of her companies. Arison set off an uproar in Israel after she revealed that information in an interview with Channel Two broadcast late on Saturday. "I get a picture, I can feel it. If it's fire, I feel like I'm burning. If people are dying I feel pain," she confirmed in an interview with Reuters. The Israeli-American Arison along with her brother inherited billions of dollars from her late father Ted Arison, who founded Carnival Corp, the world's biggest cruise ship operator. She is the controlling shareholder in Bank Hapoalim and controls Housing and Construction, Israel's biggest construction company. She said these visions are meant to help lead the world elsewhere. To this end, she is releasing her first book this week, entitled "Birth - When the Spiritual and the Material Come Together," which details her journey both spiritually and in business." (Yahoo News, 22 June) RD

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

DOWN AND OUT DOWN UNDER


The OECD report says retirees should take out annuities which offer a guaranteed
retirement benefit


"An OECD report on pensions has found Australia has one of the highest rates of poverty for people aged over 65. The report says more than one in four Australian seniors live in poverty by international measures, which is the fourth highest old-age poverty rate in OECD countries, after Ireland, Korea and Mexico." (ABC News, 24 June) RD

THE PRICE OF COAL

"Ten-year old Yilong is already a statistic. Born at the center of China's coal industry, the boy is mentally handicapped and is unable to speak. He is one of many such children in Shanxi province, where coal has brought riches to a few, jobs for many, and environmental pollution that experts say has led to a high number of babies born with birth defects. Experts say coal mining and processing has given Shanxi a rate of birth defects six times higher than China's national average, which is already high by global standards. "They looked normal when they were born. But they were still unable to talk or walk over a year later," said farmer Hu Yongliang, 38, whose two older children are mentally handicapped. "They learnt to walk at the age of six or seven. They are very weak. Nobody knows what the problem is."
(Yahoo News, 23 June) RD

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

POVERTY? AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

"Responding to the global recession, former U.S. President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit this year will focus on ways for companies to profit from tackling poverty, climate change, health and education. To keep companies engaged in fighting the world's problems amid an economic crisis that has seen millions of people lose their jobs, summit organizers said the meeting had to evolve from an event where corporate chiefs showed up and just wrote checks to support humanitarian work. "We recognized that the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) of old was no longer going to be a feasible model to move forward on," said Edward Hughes, CGI's deputy director and director of program for the fifth annual summit this September." Companies couldn't simply treat us as a place where their foundation would come and write checks to NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), but rather for them to remain engaged, (CGI) had to deliver value to their core bottom line, to their business operations," he said. "We needed to justify this as being a real value-return exercise." ... This year, the Clinton Global Initiative will concentrate on four new areas -- harnessing innovation for development, strengthening infrastructure, developing human capital and financing an equitable future. It says each of those areas offers companies investment opportunities, while at the same time tackling world ills."
Yahoo News, 23 June) RD

Monday, June 29, 2009

OWNERSHIP AND KNOWLEDGE

When technology makes knowledge globally available, reshaping the economics of
buying and selling it becomes crucial



"Ten years ago, a piece of software called Napster taught us that scarcity is no longer a law of nature. The physics of our universe would allow everyone with access to a networked computer to enjoy, for free, every song, every film, every book, every piece of research, every computer program, every last thing that could be made out of digital ones and zeros. The question became not, will nature allow it, but will our legal and economic system ever allow it? This is a question about the future of capitalism, the economic system that arose from scarcity. Ours is the era of expanded copyright systems and enormous portfolios of dubious patents, of trade secrecy, the privatisation of the fruits of publicly funded research, and other phenomena that we collectively term "intellectual property". As technology has made a new abundance of knowledge possible, politicians, lawyers, corporations and university administrations have become more and more determined to preserve its scarcity. So will we cling to scarcity just so that we can keep capitalism?" (New Scientist, 24 June) RD

Thursday, June 25, 2009

SORRY, BUT NO MONEY

"The Senate unanimously passed a resolution yesterday apologizing for slavery, making way for a joint congressional resolution and the latest attempt by the federal government to take responsibility for 2.5 centuries of slavery. "You wonder why we didn't do it 100 year ago", Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said after the unanimous-consent vote. "It is important to have a collective response to collective injustice. The Senate's apology follows a similar resolution passed last year by the House. One key difference is that the Senate version explicitly deals with the long-simmering issue of whether slavery descendants are entitled to reparations, saying that the resolution cannot be used in support of claims for restitution. The House is expected to revisit the issue next week to confirm its resolution to the Senate version." (Washington Post, 19 June) RD

HARD TIMES

"For a royal who was once rumoured to ask his valet to squirt toothpaste on to his toothbrush for him, the idea of belt-tightening may seem alien. But even the Prince of Wales is feeling the pinch from the recession. Despite being one of the country's richest landowners, with a £600m estate to bankroll everything from his eco-friendly Aston Martin sports car to ski holidays in Klosters, the heir to the throne responded to the economic crisis by slashing his personal spending last year by £500,000, according to figures published in an annual review. By ordinary standards, the cutbacks could hardly be described as brutal, but they suggest a prince who is at least attempting to economise. He has, the review revealed, opted to take holidays with his wife at his home in Scotland rather than travelling to Switzerland on expensive ski trips as he has done in previous years. The Duchess of Cornwall did not take a sailing holiday with friends in the Greek islands as she has often done and wears the same dresses several times, a recycling habit also picked up by the prince who said to be getting more wear out of his suits, courtiers said." (Guardian, 23 June) RD

THE LORD WILL PROVIDE?

"The Church of England is to debate trimming the number of bishops and other senior clergy, amid falling investment returns and a £352m pension deficit. The measure, proposed by the diocese of Bradford, will be discussed at next month's meeting of the General Synod, the church's legislative body. In a paper the diocese said that despite a "large decline" in church membership and full-time paid clergy there had been no serious consideration given to the need to reduce the number of senior posts and the structures around them. In 2008 the church commissioners, who manage investments for the Church of England, spent £7.3m maintaining houses for diocesan bishops and £14.5m in grants for bishops' support staff, office and working costs. At a briefing yesterday the synod general-secretary, William Fittall, said the church was experiencing "acute" financial pressures: "We are not in a situation of panic but we are in a situation of real pressure and a huge increase in pension costs is a real problem." (Guardian, 23 June) RD

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

381 x $140 MILLION, WOW!

"Washington – A top Air Force general, crossing swords with Pentagon leadership, says a proposed cap on the number of F-22 stealth fighters puts America at "high risk" of compromising military strategy. In a June 9 letter to a senator, Gen. John Corley, commander of the Air Force's Air Combat Command, wrote: "In my opinion, a fleet of 187 F-22s puts execution of our current national military strategy at high risk in the near to mid term." General Corley's letter, obtained by the Monitor Thursday, came in response to a query from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia, where parts of the F-22 Raptor are built. The 187 cap is the symbolic centrepiece of Defence Secretary Robert Gates's budget request, which aims to rein in defence procurement costs. He has said it is time to wrap up the program to buy the $140 million-a-copy plane. The Air Force had long disagreed, calling for as many as 381 planes as recently as last year, in apparent defiance of Mr. Gates." (Christian Science Monitor, 18 June) RD

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

THE ADVANCE OF CAPITALISM

Behind the flowery rhetoric of reformist politicians on so-called "green" issues there lies the brutal reality of capitalism's need to expand. Capitalism is a highly competitive society, with each national group in a fierce battle for markets. Here is a small example of how the expansion of capitalism is deforesting the planet. " Uganda has lost nearly a third of its forest cover since 1990 due to expanding farmlands, a rapidly growing human population and increased urbanisation, a government report said on Friday. In 1990, the east African nation had more than five million hectares of forest cover but by 2005 only 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) remained, the report, published by Ugandan's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), said. If deforestation continues at the present rate Uganda will have lost all its forested land by 2050, it warned." (Yahoo News, 19 June)
Only a society with production solely for use can save the forests, the oceans and eventually humankind itself. RD

AN UPSIDE-DOWN SOCIETY

"A collection of more than 3,000 inverted stamps has sold at auction in New York for more than $5 million. The two-day auction by Spink Shreves Galleries ended Friday. The collection was amassed by Pittsburgh stockbroker Robert H. Cunliffe, who died last year. Charles Shreve, president of the Dallas-based gallery, says it was the most comprehensive collection of inverts ever formed. Inverted stamps result when different colors and elements are printed in separate press runs and a sheet gets flipped upside-down between press runs."
(Associated Press, 19 June) RD

Monday, June 22, 2009

LAND OF THE FREE?


Kenneth L. Wainstein testified about surveillance in Fall 2007 at a Senate
committee hearing.
"Washington — The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said. The agency’s monitoring of domestic e-mail messages, in particular, has posed longstanding legal and logistical difficulties, the officials said. Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation."
(New York Times, 17 June) RD

Sunday, June 21, 2009

ONE BILLION REASONS FOR SOCIALISM

"One billion people throughout the world suffer from hunger, a figure which has increased by 100 million because of the global financial crisis, says the UN. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said the figure was a record high. Persistently high food prices have also contributed to the hunger crisis. The director general of the FAO said the level of hunger, one-sixth of the world's population, posed a "serious risk" to world peace and security. The UN said almost all of the world's undernourished live in developing countries, with the most, some 642 million people, living in the Asia-Pacific region." (BBC News, 20 June) RD

"EXPERTS" IN ACTION”

" an economics profession that had wandered down so many blind alleys in recent decades that, in the United States between 1985 and 2000, out of 7,000 academic articles produced under the aegis of the National Bureau of Economic Research, only five mentioned fiscal policy, and the consensus was that markets were so perfect that crisis such as we have recently been experiencing simply could not happen." (Times, 14 June) RD

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Capitalism is working as normal.


Capitalism is working as normal.

1.02 billion people hungry.



The faces behind the numbers.


One sixth of humanity undernourished - more than ever before.



19 June 2009, Rome - World hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009 with 1 020 million people going hungry every day, according to new estimates published by FAO today.The most recent increase in hunger is not the consequence of poor global harvests but is caused by the world economic crisis that has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment. This has reduced access to food by the poor, the UN agency said."A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. "The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions.""The present situation of world food insecurity cannot leave us indifferent," he added.Poor countries, Diouf stressed, "must be given the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity. Investment in agriculture must be increased because for the majority of poor countries a healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome poverty and hunger and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth."
Full report below.
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Capitalism is working as normal.Let us work to get rid of this foul system and establish a free access society of socialism/communism.Production for use based upon, voluntary labour, access to its produce based upon, self determined need.
A democratic society without nation states ,elites,leaders,markets and their corolary, buying and selling.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

RECESSION RECRUITMENT (2)

"Annapolis, Md. – Applications have surged at the nation's three top military academies as tough economic times coincide with stepped-up recruiting efforts by the Army, Navy and Air Force schools, making the prospect of free college and a steady job look sweeter. The recession has already helped drive higher military recruitment and retention. Stronger student response to recruiting campaigns by the three academies, who want to increase minority ranks in the officer corps, comes as the recession has reduced college scholarships and other financial aid. As of this week, the U.S. Naval Academy was out in front with a 40 percent increase in applications compared with last year. Annapolis received about 15,300 applications for about 1,230 positions — the highest number of applications the academy has received since 1988."
(Associated Press, 16 June) RD

Thursday, June 18, 2009

PRICEY, BUT A NICE EXHAUST NOTE!

"Is this the best Aston ever? Just maybe. By fitting a mighty 6.0-litre V12 engine into its petite Vantage, the company has created a car few machines can rival for character and driver appeal. The £135,000 model is also well engineered, and a treat to spend time in. Squeezing into the figure-hugging driver's seat is no mean feat, but immensely rewarding. And we can't think of anything with a better exhaust note! (First Post, 17 June) RD

A SENSE OF VALUES?

"A rare Abraham Lincoln stamp that was stolen from Indiana in 1967 and surfaced 39 years later in Chicago has sold at auction for more than $430,000. The stamped envelope was auctioned Saturday at Manhattan's Robert A. Siegel galleries. The buyer is Arthur K.M. Woo, a doctor who would reveal nothing more about himself. He paid $431,250 for the 90-cent stamp, against a pre-sale estimate of $300,000 to $400,000, including the buyer's premium." (Associated Press, 14 June) RD

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

THE HIGH COST OF DYING

"Execution by firing squad will be halted in Beijing by the end of the year, to be replaced by lethal injection. The ruling is designed to make the death penalty less cumbersome and to reduce the trauma to all involved, including executioners and family, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. One legal expert said: "The execution process is rather bloody, placing great pressure both on the criminal and on those involved in carrying out the sentence." China has been slow to switch to lethal injections because of the extra costs - each dose of potassium cyanide costs 300 yuan ($5.48)" (The Australian, 17 June). RD

ITS A MAD, MAD WORLD

"Such is the lack of work that the £80 million transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo ranks as 31st in the league table for UK mergers and acquisitions this year by Thomson Reuters. I wonder about such deals: it's a bit like when you read that some idiot has paid £10,000 for an exotic goldfish - you think, what if it dies? I am told that footballers such as Ronaldo are insured. But if they suddenly hit a run of bad play? There must be some temptation to arrange an "accident" for the insurance money, surely?" (City Diary by Martin Walker, Times, 16 June) RD

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE POOR GET POORER

"The burden of rising unemployment in England is falling mainly on the most deprived areas and threatens to undermine the government’s anti-poverty drive, Financial Times research has shown. An analysis of people signing on for the jobseeker’s allowance in the first four months of this year indicates nearly two-thirds of the 344,000 increase was in areas with above-average levels of deprivation. This confirms other data suggesting this downturn, far from being a mainly middle-class recession focused on south-east England, is primarily hitting low-income workers in the traditional industrial heartlands such as the Midlands and northern England. Even though there are signs of a modest return to growth nationally in manufacturing and services, parts of these regions may take longer to recover. Unemployment, currently at 2.2m, is likely to continue to rise for several months." (Financial Times, 15 June) RD

RECESSION RECRUITMENT

The quality of new soldiers is increasing as a lack of civilian jobs prompts fitter, smarter men to opt for a career in uniform. The influx of "recession recruits" has pushed the drop-out rate on the infantry's gruelling, basic-training course below 30 per cent for the first time. Brigadier James Stevenson, Commandant of the School of Infantry, said that economic slumps historically boosted army recruitment." (Times, 15 June) RD

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A SHAMEFUL WASTE

"China spent $84.9 billion (£53 billion) on is military last year, second only to the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Its report said that France moved into third place in spending with Britain fourth. Military spending worldwide rose by 4 per cent to $1.46 trillion, the report said." (Times, 9 June) RD

BABY, IT'S COLD INSIDE

"The government was today urged to offer more help to the millions of families in fuel poverty due to rising energy prices. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee said ministers had failed to meet statutory obligations to end fuel poverty and called on them to set up an action plan to help people struggling with energy bills as a matter of urgency. It warned the resources available for tackling fuel poverty were "inadequate and getting worse". Anyone spending at least 10% of their income on heating and lighting their home is deemed to be living in fuel poverty. ...Jonathan Stearn, energy expert for Consumer Focus, said it was "outrageous" that there were still more than 5 million vulnerable households struggling to afford to heat and power their homes. He added: "The government's energy efficiency schemes are simply not up to scratch. Immediate investment is needed in a radical and co-ordinated action plan if we are to lift millions of the poorest pensioners, families and disabled people out of fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions." Michelle Mitchell, charity director for Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: "The report sounds a loud wake-up call for the government, whose strategy to tackle fuel poverty is miles away from reaching its targets." (Guardian, 10 June) RD

Thursday, June 11, 2009

HOME OF THE BRAVE?

"Brunswick, Maine - The old, run-down trailer in the backcountry near Norridgewock wasn't much to look at, but it was home. That was before the landlord died, setting in motion events that left Michelle DeStoop, Bobby Landry and their six children without a place of their own. After losing their home, they sold their car to a junkyard when they couldn't afford to have it repaired. Without a car, they couldn't get around. Low on money, they lost their meager possessions when they couldn't pay the bill for storage. Homelessness often means life in soup lines and on city streets, but as a new study commissioned by the state shows, it isn't confined to cities. It also can be found across rural areas, so concealed that some people are surprised it exists at all, the study finds." (Associated Press, 6 June) RD

GUNS YES, HEALTH NO

"The health service will face the most severe and sustained financial shortfall in its history after 2011, a report by NHS managers warns. The NHS Confederation report says the health service in England will not survive unchanged, the BBC has learned. Managers at its conference will be told they face an "extremely challenging" financial outlook. ...The report, to be published on Wednesday, warns any modest cash increases could be outstripped by rising costs within the health service. This would leave the NHS in England facing a real-terms reduction of between £8bn and 10bn over the three years after 2011." (BBC News, 10 June) RD

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reading Notes

- "It was the first time I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically any building of any size had been seized by the workers. Every shop and café had an inscription saying it was collectivized; even the boot blacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black.Waiters and shop walkers looked you in the face and treated you as equals. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. There were no private cars; they had all been commandeered. It was the aspect of the crowds that was the queerest thing of all. In outward appearance it was a town in which the wealthy classes had practically ceased to exist.Above all there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in a capitalist machine." George Orwell, describing the workers' Catalonia in the Spanish Civil War in "Homage to Catalonia. Not quite socialist yet (boot blacks? Waiters?) but a hint of the feeling when the real socialist revolution comes along!
For socialism, John Ayers

THE PRICE OF OIL

"Royal Dutch Shell and the families of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an executed Nigerian opposition leader, and other activists hanged by the military government in 1995, on Monday agreed a $15.5m settlement in a New York court case stemming from allegations the oil group was complicit in the executions. The settlement, in which Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary denied any liability, ended a 13-year campaign by relations and supporters of Saro-Wiwa to hold the company accountable. A spokesman for the plaintiffs said $5m of the settlement to be paid by Shell would be put into a trust fund to promote education and welfare in the Ogoniland region of the Niger delta. The balance would be shared among 10 plaintiffs after legal costs were met. Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists were hanged after leading a campaign against Shell’s activities in the region and the then military-led government. ...Oil production stopped in Ogoniland in 1993 when Shell ceased operations amid mass protests led by Saro-Wiwa against the environmental damage alleged to have been inflicted by the company’s operations. The plaintiffs had alleged that at the request of Shell, and with its assistance and financing, Nigerian soldiers used deadly force and massive, brutal raids against the Ogoni people throughout the early 1990s to repress a movement against the oil company." (Financial Times, 9 June) RD

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Food for Thought 4

- The number of homes repossessed by banks in Toronto rose 44% from March 2008 to this March.
- Further afield, the star economy of the neo-cons, Ireland, has crashed and burned further and faster than any European economy, posting the biggest drop in GDP of any industrialized nation since the Great Depression. The C.D. Howe and Fraser Institutes praised Ireland in 2003 for aggressive tax reduction that `yielded enormous benefits'. Prosperity was founded on low-cost labour, an advantage it soon lost. (Toronto Star, 3/May/09).
- On the health front, the good news is that the swine flu has disappeared. Unfortunately, it reappeared as H1N1, renamed by the World Health Organization in deference to the pork industry. Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers calls it NAFTA flu and argues multi nationals are getting away with dire conditions not allowed north of the Mexican border. The first case occurred near the hog farms of US giant Smithfield Farms ($12 billion annual sales). In the US, Smithfield was fined $12.6 million in 1997 for dumping raw sewage into a river. Do you see a pattern here?
- Fast food companies are adding vitamins to their food so they can advertise them as healthy eating. So French fries cooked in trans fat but containing vitamin C are healthy. Will these guys ever quit trying to circumvent good practices in the name of profit? No, and we can't expect them to do so while the profit system is in tact.
- Similarly, the Canadian government is getting worried as California passed a climate change bill with a low carbon fuel standard, and other states may follow. After failing to influence Arnold Schwarzenegger, claiming that targeting the oil sands would divert money to oil rich countries that fund terrorism and threaten our security (as if the US would fall for that one – they made it up in the first place!), our government has started an intense education program for our top diplomats so that they will be able to present Canada as a clean energy super power. That's the dirtiest project on earth we are talking about!
- Michelle Obama showed support for the poor by showing up at a Washington food bank wearing sneakers, $540 sneakers by the Paris house of Lanvin! The fact that people were lining up to receive handouts while she was able to spend that kind of money on casual shoes was apparently lost on her. She should have thrown the shoes to the crowd. One shoe would have fed a family for a month. Hell, a lace would have fed them for a week!
John Ayers

Monday, June 08, 2009

Food for Thought 3

- The auto manufacturers continue to go after workers' benefits during these difficult economic times, as we expect. After reaching a deal two months ago, the US government ordered the contracts re-opened and further cuts to benefits. The workers lose another $15/hour in wages and benefits, on top of the $6/hour already taken. They lose cost of living allowances, one week of paid vacation, a $1,700 Christmas bonus, $3,500 in one-time holiday pay, school tuition assistance and semi-private hospital care. Pensioners lose cost of living increases. Today, GM filed for bankruptcy, will receive further government funds ($20 billion) to restructure and come back firing 21 000 employees and closing many dealerships (and firing their employees). Not to be outdone, Ontario Premier McGuinty, rejected a call for executive pay at companies receiving government money to be capped at $400 000, but he was not slow in joining other governments in insisting on pay cuts for workers. Let's hope the workers in that industry become a bit more class conscious through all this turmoil. John Ayers

A SENSE OF VALUES?

"A legendary rare stamp, a 'Post Office' Mauritius One Penny Red, sold Friday at an auction in Germany for 210,000 euros (277,000 dollars), disappointing its previous owner, who had been expecting more. Ullrich Schulze had mislaid the ancient postage stamp in one of his albums 20 years ago, forgetting where he had put it. But he stumbled on it recently and put it up for sale. There are thought to be only 15 of the stamps in existence."
(Stamp Collection News, 25 May) RD

EDUCATION'S REAL ROLE

There is a widespread illusion that the purpose of education, especially higher education, is to produce well-rounded human beings who are equipped with a basic thirst for knowledge and curiosity about the world around them. It is a wonderful concept but like most of capitalism's ideas it is a complete fraud. "England's department for higher and further education has been scrapped, just two years after its creation. The prime minister has created a new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under Lord Mandelson. Universities do not figure in the name of the new department, whose remit is "to build Britain's capabilities to compete in the global economy". Number 10 said it would invest in a higher education system committed to widening participation. The role would include "maintaining world class universities, expanding access to higher education, investing in the UK's science base and shaping skills policy and innovation". (BBC News, 5 June)
Far from being concerned about an individual's intellectual development, inside capitalism the purpose of education is dictated by the industrial and commercial needs of the owning class. The UK must compete for world markets therefore it needs an educated working class. RD

Sunday, June 07, 2009

OUTDATED MARXISM?

We are all aware of the critics of Karl Marx who say that he may have had something to say about early capitalism but his criticisms are old-fashioned and out of date. Away back in 1867 Marx wrote about the "so-called primitive accumulation of capital" wherein he showed how the capitalist class in England had obtained its great wealth by such acts as the enclosure acts to throw peasants off their land. Today a similar process is taking place in Peru. "President Alan Garcia labored Saturday to contain Peru's worst political violence in years, as nine more police officers were killed in a bloody standoff with Amazon Indians fighting his efforts to exploit oil and gas on their native lands. The new deaths brought to 22 the number of police killed — seven with spears — since security forces moved early Friday to break up a roadblock manned by 5,000 protesters. Protest leaders said at least 30 Indians, including three children, died in the clashes. Authorities said they could confirm only nine civilian deaths, but cabinet chief Yehude Simon told reporters that 155 people had been injured, about a third of them with bullet wounds." (Associated Press, 6 June)
Far from being outdated Marx's view on the development of capitalist ownership is being re-enacted in today's newspaper headlines. RD

Food for Thought 2

- Perhaps religion has the pension answer. Preacher Tin La Haye tells us re collapsed retirement savings, " Don't worry about it – I don't think we are going to be spending our retirement. The upper-taker (Jesus) is going to catch us first. If He's coming, He better hurry and get here before the federal government. Every morning you can wake up and say, `Lord, is this the day?'And don't worry about it, no matter how young or old you are – you are not going to miss a thing. Because what's ahead is much better than we've got now – particularly after the last election…Personally, I've never been a lover of socialism."
OK then, we don't have to worry about old age. However, it didn't stop La Haye exhorting his following to write out checks to support him and his traveling entourage and keep them in a life of luxury. (Toronto Star, 16/May/2009). John Ayers

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Food for Thought

- As workers lose their pension money, in RSPs or from failing employers, and six out of ten Canadians have no company pension, The Canadian Labour Congress once again shows its `work with capitalism' stance by calling for a new pension model, not an end to the employment system.
- Along with the auto industry (projected 2009 loss at $2.1 billion), and the stock market (down $34 billion), the Canada Pension Plan has lost $23.6 billion. No worry for the managers, though, as the top four executives of the plan not only take home paychecks of $300 000 to $500 000, they also get bonuses of $7 million to share, for losing the $23.6 billion. The average CPP benefit for workers is $501.82/month!
- The federal government has announced that its budget deficit will be $50 billion, not $34 billion as previously announced and just a few months after finance minister Flaherty predicted a small surplus. The bailouts are the excuse but it seems money is slow to trickle down to where it is needed as the old ploy of requiring provincial and local matching funds has been used. Either they can't match it or the funds get tied up in the red tape of three government levels. Either way, for the unemployed it will be a long, desperate wait for work and the means of living. For example, the Toronto Star (17/May/09) reported that a machinist laid off after two years work in an auto parts plant qualified for just 28 weeks @ $284/week, less than half his regular (low) pay. Capital chews you up and spits you out.
John Ayers

Friday, June 05, 2009

MAKING A "KILLING"

"Britain and other EU countries sold military equipment worth millions of pounds to the Sri Lankan Government in the last three years of its bloody civil war with the Tamil Tigers, The Times has learnt. Britain approved commercial sales of more than £13.6 million of equipment including armoured vehicles, machinegun components and semiautomatic pistols, according to official records. ...The approval of the sales still raises the question of whether weapons from the EU were used in the last five months of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, during which UN officials estimate that 20,000 civilians were killed." (Times, 2 June) RD

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEKEEPERS?

"A former US Marine, Pastor Ken Pagano of New Bethel Church of Louisville, Kentucky said the church would celebrate the Fourth of July and "our rights as Americans". Rev Pagano said he wanted responsible handgun owners to attend this service openly wearing their sidearm, on 27 June, the Saturday preceding Independence Day. The move would be symbolic, however: the firearms must be unloaded and in a secure holster. The priest said he would also invite gun shop owners to attend the service in order to tell about their services. There would be patriotic music along with a presentation about the right of Americans to own firearms, including military-style automatic machine guns." (Daily Telegraph, 5 June) RD

Thursday, June 04, 2009

LAZY WORKERS?

"More than 1,800 people turned up at an hotel where a recruitment day was being held to hire 25 people to work in a new shop that is opening in a former Woolworths store. The discount store QD is due to open in Wellingborough, Nothamptonshire, later this month."
(Times, 3 June) RD

GREEN SHOOTS?

"US companies cut more than half a million jobs last month as the recession continued to chip away at the country’s labour market, while the service sector shrank more than expected. Private companies cut 532,000 jobs from their payrolls in May, according to a survey by ADP Employer Services. Although that was fewer than the revised 545,000 jobs slashed in April, the number was worse than many predicted and pushed shares lower on Wednesday morning." (Financial Times, 3 June) RD

IMPROVING CAPITALISM?

"A UN report says hunger in South Asia has reached its highest level in 40 years because of food and fuel price rises and the global economic downturn. The report by the UN children's fund, Unicef, says that 100 million more people in the region are going hungry compared with two years ago. It names the worst affected areas as Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The report says South Asia's governments need to urgently increase social spending to meet the challenge. It says that climate change and urbanisation also need tackling. According to the World Bank, three quarters of the population in South Asia - almost 1.2 billion people - live on less than $2 (£1.2) a day. And more than 400m people in the region are now chronically hungry.
(BBC News, 2 June) RD

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

THE PRICE OF GOLD

"The bodies of another 25 people have been found in a disused South African gold mine, where 36 illegal miners were killed in a fire at the weekend. "The bodies are not burnt. It seems more of a case of gas or smoke inhalation," said Tom Smith from Harmony, which owns the Eland mine. He said the bodies had been found by other miners, as the abandoned shaft was too dangerous for the firm's staff. Harmony says nearly 300 illegal miners were arrested in the area recently. Illegal mining is rife in South Africa where prospectors often sneak past security at one mine and then exit from a different shaft, miles away. The BBC's Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says the authorities have launched an investigation to establish how many people have died. Mr Smith said the bodies had been recovered from depths of up to 1.4km (0.9 miles) underground, reports the Reuters news agency. (BBC News, 2 June) RD

MEGA-DEATH MARKETPLACE

"The annual Asia Security Conference, a forum for discussion, brought together some of the world's main arms-makers with military chiefs nervously eyeing their neighbours' moves and looking to upgrade defences in a region full of long-running insurgencies, potential maritime disputes and growing wealth. "Defence suppliers find it very important to be here to make a set of contacts," said Jonathan Pollack, professor of Asian and Pacific Studies at the U.S. Naval War College. Japan's defence minister told the gathering that the country, anxious about North Korea's latest nuclear test, would not strike first but it was still looking to boost its air force with Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets. Top executives from firms such as Boeing, the Pentagon's No.2 defence supplier, flew to Singapore to rub shoulders with potential clients, as they look to expand foreign sales at a time when the Obama government is starting to cap defence project spending." (Yahoo News, 31 May) RD

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

GLOBAL DISASTER

"The first comprehensive report into the human cost of climate change warns the world is in the throes of a "silent crisis" that is killing 300,000 people each year. More than 300 million people are already seriously affected by the gradual warming of the earth and that number is set to double by 2030, the report from the Global Humanitarian Forum warns. "For the first time we are trying to get the world's attention to the fact that climate change is not something waiting to happen. It is impacting seriously the lives of many people around the world," the forum's president, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told CNN" (AOL News, 29 May) RD

Monday, June 01, 2009

CAPITALISM IN ACTION

"Early this year, the king of Saudi Arabia held a ceremony to receive a batch of rice, part of the first crop to be produced under something called the King Abdullah initiative for Saudi agricultural investment abroad. It had been grown in Ethiopia, where a group of Saudi investors is spending $100m to raise wheat, barley and rice on land leased to them by the government. The investors are exempt from tax in the first few years and may export the entire crop back home. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is spending almost the same amount as the investors ($116m) providing 230,000 tonnes of food aid between 2007 and 2011 to the 4.6m Ethiopians it thinks are threatened by hunger and malnutrition." (Economist, 21 May) RD

A DEPRESSING SYSTEM

"British workers are experiencing panic attacks and insomnia because of stress associated with the economic downturn, a survey has suggested. Norwich Union Healthcare polled 200 GPs, 200 business leaders and 1,000 employees for its Health of the Workplace survey. Half the workers admitted to being stressed, while one in five is suffering depression. A leading GP said people now had better access to talking therapies. The annual Norwich Union healthcare study found workers are putting increasing amounts of time and effort into their jobs. About half are going into work when they are ill and working longer hours, while just over a third are not taking lunch breaks." (BBC News, 29 May) RD

Saturday, May 30, 2009

HARIKARI CAPITALISM

"Suicide is rising in Japan as the economic crisis bites, with more than 100 people a day taking their lives in April. "It's the end of the financial year, so I think the effect of the economy is a trigger," said Yasuyuki Shimizu, head of Lifelink, a group that campaigns to prevent suicide. In a recession, the end of the financial year tends to spark bankruptcies and layoffs. Japan's suicide rate is already one of the highest in the developed world, with about 24 cases per 100,000 population in recent years, compared with 11 in the United States. The April figure was up 6 percent from the same month last year, police statistics showed on Wednesday."
(Yahoo News, 28 May) RD

BLESSED ARE THE POOR ?

"The Catholic orders responsible for abusing Ireland's poorest children say they're struggling to come up with money to help their victims. Yet investigations into their net worth paint a very different picture — that of nuns and brothers with billions' worth of carefully sheltered assets worldwide. Irish government leaders said Wednesday they expect the 18 religious orders involved in abusing children in workhouse-style schools to pay a much greater share of compensation to 14,000 state-recognized victims. They also demanded that the secretive orders reveal the true scope of their wealth for the first time in face-to-face negotiations with the government." (Yahoo News, 27 May) RD

Friday, May 29, 2009

POWDER KEG CAPITALISM

"The world is sitting on a "powder keg" of social unrest, which risks exploding as human rights are eroded by the global economic slowdown, Amnesty International warned. But its annual report -- detailing abuses from China to Guantanamo Bay and from Sri Lanka to the ex-Soviet Union -- said the global meltdown also offers a chance to rebuild an economic framework putting human rights at its heart. "There are growing signs of political unrest and violence, adding to the global insecurity that already exists because of deadly conflicts which the international community seems unable or unwilling to resolve. "In other words: we are sitting on a powder keg of inequality, injustice and insecurity, and it is about to explode," said Amnesty chief Irene Khan." (Yahoo News, 28 May) RD

Thursday, May 28, 2009

SCOTLAND THE BEREAVED

"Hundreds of jobs are to be axed after it was confirmed today that Hewlett-Packard is to cease manufacturing at a computer plant in Scotland. The work is to be transferred abroad from the factory in Erskine, Renfrewshire. As many as 850 jobs are feared to be at risk out of the 1,300-strong workforce employed by the US-based firm at Erskine." (Guardian, 28 May) RD

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

POVERTY IN GERMANY

"Anyone who's living off less than 60% of the median household income is defined by the E.U. and the German government as living in poverty. In Germany, that's around $1,066 per month for a single person or $2,240 for a couple with one child. Some of the hardest hit by Germany's increasing poverty levels are children. It's estimated that there are more than 3 million German children living in poverty; in Berlin alone, up to 36% of all children are poor. "The gap between the rich and poor is wider than ever and more children have been plunged into poverty," says Bernd Siggelkow, a pastor who runs the Arche project in Berlin to help children in need. "People who claim state benefits are stigmatized by society and in the past children were simply forgotten by politicians." (Yahoo News, 25 May) RD

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PROFITS BEFORE HEALTH

"Food safety inspectors say a California plant at the center of a salmonella scare knew some of its pistachios were tainted but continued shipping nuts for another six months. The Food and Drug Administration issued a sweeping national warning in March for consumers to avoid eating pistachios after concerns surfaced about nuts from Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc. In an inspection report released this week, FDA officials said Setton first got results in October showing some of its roasted nuts tested positive for salmonella. But, officials say, it didn't make proper adjustments to its processing procedures and kept shipping out nuts."
(Yahoo News, 23 May) RD

Saturday, May 23, 2009

THE SEEDS OF WAR

"Diminishing supplies of oil and natural gas will push countries into violent competition, the Kremlin predicted in a long-awaited national security strategy paper released this week. The document foresees these struggles playing out in the Arctic as well as the Middle East, the Barents Sea, the Caspian Sea and Central Asia - and states that Russia is prepared to fight for its share of the world's resources. "In the face of competition for resources, the use of military force to solve emerging problems cannot be excluded," reads the strategy paper, which was signed by President Dmitri Medvedev on Wednesday." (Yahoo News, 17 May) RD

ECONOMIC POLITICS

Politicians are fond of pretending that they are concerned about ethical matters and would deny that their primary function is to concern themselves with the economic interests of their masters. So it comes as no great surprise to learn that the EU spokesmen prattle on about "the political rights of small nations" whilst in reality having sordid economic interests in mind.
"Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned the European Union not to turn a proposed partnership with former Soviet countries against Russia. He was speaking at the end of a Russia-EU summit held against a background of deep divisions over security, trade and energy supplies. A BBC correspondent in Moscow says the biggest concern at the summit was over Russian gas supplies to Europe. Deliveries were halted in January due to Moscow's price dispute with Ukraine. ... A year ago - when Mr Medvedev became Russia's new leader - there was hope that relations with the EU might gradually improve, the BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow says. Instead, he says, they have got steadily worse. Relations plummeted after last year's brief war between Russia and Georgia. Since then there has been another gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine which led to gas supplies to many European countries being cut off for two weeks in mid-winter. There is also a growing battle over energy pipelines as the EU tries to find alternatives to its growing dependency on Russian gas." (BBC News, 21May) RD

Friday, May 22, 2009

GREENS AND GREEN BACKS

It is fashionable for every capitalist politician to say that they are "green" - it is a good vote-catcher, but the realities of capitalism are the production of more and more profits. So when it comes to the crunch, profit -making is going to be a bigger priority than the environment. "US Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the US will not be able to cut greenhouse emissions as much as it should due to domestic political opposition. Prof Chu told BBC News he feared the world might be heading towards a tipping point on climate change. This meant the US had to cut emissions urgently - even if compromises were needed to get new laws approved. ... President Barack Obama says he wants cuts in greenhouse gases but has left it to Congress to make the political running. The House of Representatives is debating a climate and energy bill but even if it passes it may be rejected by senators, many of whom are funded by the energy industry." (BBC News, 21 May)
Politicians are deeply concerned about "green" issues - the issue of green-back dollars! RD

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A DESPERATE WORKER

"A suspected illegal immigrant was arrested after being found on the outside of a Eurostar train – which had been travelling through Kent at 186mph. The man was detained by British Transport Police officers after being discovered at Ebbsfleet International Station near Gravesend in Kent. He was intercepted at the station on a Brussels to London service just before 7pm last Thursday. Eurostar trains can reach speeds of up to 186mph while in service." (Independent, 27 April) RD

FUTURE SHOCKS

"The number of potential nuclear weapons states could more than double in the next few years unless major powers take radical steps toward disarmament, the head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog was quoted saying on Friday. Mohamed ElBaradei said the threat of proliferation was particularly great in the Middle East and the international regime designed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons was at risk of falling apart, the Guardian newspaper reported. "Any regime ... has to have a sense of fairness and equity and it is not there," ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview with the paper. He predicted the next wave of proliferation would involve "virtual nuclear states" which could produce plutonium or highly enriched uranium and would have the know-how to make warheads, but would stop just short of assembling a weapon. Such states would remain technically compliant with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) while being within a couple of months of deploying and using a weapon, he said." (Yahoo News, 12 May) RD

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

HOME SWEET HOME?

"The number of homes repossessed in the UK rose to 12,800 in the first three months of the year, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has said. This was up 23% from the 10,400 in the previous three months and 50% up on the 8,500 in the same period last year. The CML has predicted that 75,000 homes will be repossessed in 2009, almost double the 40,000 of last year." (BBC News, 16 May) RD

THE PRIORITIES OF CAPITALISM

The US Government, like every government in world capitalism spends billions of dollars in weapons of war and research into more and more deadly ways to kill and maim, but when it comes to spending two cents to save a child's life they remain strangely reluctant.
"Americans pretty much take vitamin A for granted, but many of the world’s poorest people lack it. And as a result, it is estimated that more than half-a-million children die or go blind each year. There’s a simple fix: vitamin A capsules that cost about 2 cents each."
(New York Times, 13 May) RD

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No candidate ? Vote for yourself.


Only vote for socialism if you are in agreement with our Object and Declaration of Principles.




You might have heard of the Euro elections, the biggest in history, 500
million people, 27 countries, June 4th? You’re supposed to choose which
of your local crème-de-la-crème get to go on free holidays to Brussels
and Strasbourg, and the powers that be are a bit worried that you won’t
take it seriously enough to bother voting. Shame on you!...Read more>
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/The_Euro_elections_2009_page.html

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http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/The_Euro_elections_2009_page_Francais.html

Italiano (Italian)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/The_Euro_elections_2009_page_Italiano.html

Svenska (Swedish)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/The_Euro_elections_2009_page_Svenska.html

Español(Spanish)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/The_Euro_elections_2009_page_Espanol.html

Polska (Polish)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/The_Euro_elections_2009_page_Polska.html

Türkçe (Turkish)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/The_Euro_elections_2009_page_Turkish.html

Nederland (Dutch)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/The_Euro_elections_2009_page_Nederlands.html
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Download our election leaflets.

1, Manifesto for London Region (where we're contesting) (PDF)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/Euro09/Euro_09_leaflet_London.pdf

2. Manifesto for outside London (where we're running a write-in
campaign) (PDF)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/Euro09/Euro09_leaflet_write_in.pdf

3. London manifesto in Bengali (PDF)
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/Euro09/Bengali_Euro09.pdf

( If anyone wants copies of these leaflets to distribute they should
send an email to spgb@worldsocialism.org )
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Monday, May 18, 2009

EVICTIONS OF LANDLORDS

"Tens of thousands of landlords are struggling to meet their mortgage repayments as the economic downturn devastates the buy-to-rent market, according to a new report. Moody's, the rating agency, released figures yesterday showing that 3.55 per cent of landlords were at least three months behind with mortgage payments in the first quarter of the year - compared with 0.95 per cent in the same period a year ago. Repossession of buy-to-let loans had also risen marginally, to 0.18 per cent in the first three months of this year from 0.13 per cent in the first three months of last year. There are about a million buy-to-let landlords in the UK, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders." (Times, 13 May) RD

CAPITALIST MORALITY

"Talk about kicking a man when he's down. Moody's ( the rating agency)yesterday downgraded the credit rating of L'Aquila, the Italian city, from A1 to Ba1 and placed it on review for possible further downgrades after last month's devastating earthquake. The agency said: "Moody's views these developments as affecting the city's ability to meet its financial obligations on a timely basis." Well, it's an accurate assessment, albeit a rather cold and clinical one."
(Times, 13 May) RD

Sunday, May 17, 2009

MORE MADNESS

It surely sums up the insanity of modern capitalism wherein millions of people are trying to survive on about a dollar a day and this happens. "A flawless vivid blue diamond weighing 7.03 carats sold Tuesday for a record 10.5 million Swiss francs ($9.49 million), the highest price paid per carat for any gemstone at auction, Sotheby's said. The rectangular-shaped blue stone, the rarest to enter the international market this year, went to an anonymous buyer bidding by telephone after hectic bidding see-sawed between two callers for 15 minutes." (Yahoo News, 12 May)
We have an "anonymous buyer" spending millions of dollars on an object that in any sane society would be used for some worthwhile purpose like cutting glass or something and we have millions of starving kids. Which one grabs the headlines? Rare jewels are more important than human beings - that's capitalism for you. RD

OWNERSHIP MADNESS


Genae Girard, 39, is suing Myriad Genetics and the Patent Office over the
granting of a patent on a gene. Myriad also has patented the only test that
measures the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Anyone who looks at modern society must be staggered by how much private ownership dominates it. All the land of this planet is owned by a small group of owners - about 5 per cent. All the factories and workshops are owned by the same 5 per cent. All the airlines and all other means of transport are in the possession of the same small group. Now it seems that even the genes that are the basis of human existence are owned too. An unfortunate worker who was suffering from cancer went to a specialists for tests. "The test came back positive, so she wanted a second opinion from another test. But there can be no second opinion. A decision by the government more than 10 years ago allowed a single company, Myriad Genetics, to own the patent on two genes that are closely associated with increased risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and on the testing that measures that risk." (New York Times, 12 May)
There is money to be made out of ownership so bugger the poor worker who needs information. Sorry, they own the patent on the gene. Your mother or your daughter dies, so what. Money and profit are much more important. RD

Friday, May 15, 2009

European Elections 2009

European Elections


Click image to enlarge view

We are contesting in London but urging a write in vote elsewhere.
Our election Blog
Download our election leaflets.

1, Manifesto for London Region (where we're contesting) (PDF)
2. Manifesto for outside London (where we're running a write-in campaign) (PDF)


Candidates.

Dannny Lambert, Tristan Miller, Janet Carter, Bill Martin, Adam Buick, Simon Wigley, Frederick Allen, Patricia Deutz.

__________________________________________________________

Flying pigs and the Euro elections

flyingpiglink
Click image for more info.

Français (French) Italiano (Italian) Svenska (Swedish) Español(Spanish) Polska (Polish)


Download our election leaflets.

1, Manifesto for London Region (where we're contesting) (PDF)
2. Manifesto for outside London (where we're running a write-in campaign) (PDF)
3. London manifesto in Bengali (PDF)




( If anyone wants copies of these leaflets to distribute they should send an email to spgb@worldsocialism.org )
____________________________________________________________

THE FAILURE OF LABOUR

One of the illusions fostered by the Labour Party is that for all its shortcomings at least it is better than the Tories, but recent evidence seems to point out that even this modesty claim is erroneous.
"That relative poverty – the gap between rich and poor rather than the absolute availability of basic necessities – should be higher than it was when Harold Macmillan was prime minister is a galling discovery. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a sort of non-partisan unofficial opposition party equipped with massive brainpower, tells us that the distance between our richest and our least fortunate citizens is as high as it has been since their data starts, in 1961. Which leaves open the possibility that Brown's Britain may be more unequal than we were before the creation of the NHS and the modern welfare state." (Independent, 8 May) RD

Reading Notes

- From Germinal, a novel about a French miners’strike of the 1890s, by Emile Zola,
“ Who could say that the workers had had their reasonable share in the extraordinary increase in wealth and comfort during the last one hundred years? They (the bourgoisie) had made fun of them by declaring them free. Yes, free to starve, a freedom of which they fully availed themselves.”
- Re how capitalism works, “ Ah! There we are!” cried M. Hennebeau.(mine owner) “I was expecting that – the accusation of starving the people and living by their sweat. How can you talk such folly, you ought to know the enormous risks which capital runs in industry – in the mines, for example?…Can you believe that the company has not as much to lose as you have in the present crisis? It does not govern wages; it obeys competition under pain of ruin.”- i.e. blame the system, not the capitalist.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

IT PAYS TO TALK?

"BT has said it will cut about 15,000 jobs this year, mostly in the UK, and has reported an annual loss of £134m. The firm also said it had cut 15,000 jobs in the past year, which was 5,000 more than had been expected." (BBC News, 14 April) RD

THE PRIORITIES OF CAPITALISM

Every year billions of dollars are spent on the research and production of more and more powerful weapons. Inside capitalism it is essential to keep ahead of your trade rivals. Research into diseases or even the simple production of medicine is of a very low priority compared to arms production. "Pneumonia gets very little attention from donors or the public health community, yet it kills more than two million children a year, according to Unicef and the World Health Organization. To put it another way, if you spend five minutes reading this column, at least 19 kids will die of pneumonia in that time. That’s more than will die of AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Yet pneumonia goes ignored. It is the orphan of global health, attracting negligible investment." (New York Times, 9 May) RD

AN ARROGANT EX-WORKER

Socialists are often annoyed at the disparaging, dismissive fashion of speaking adopted by the capitalist class when dealing with members of the working class, but something that annoys us even more than that is members of the working class sneering at other members of the working class less fortunate than themselves. Perhaps the worst example of this we have come across recently is the following.
" Wealthy Celebes queued up this week to condemn the new 50% tax rate for high earners, warning that it could lead to an exodus of talent. Monday's Daily Mail quoted Sir Michael Caine saying that "if it goes to 51%, I will be back in America... We've got 3.5 million layabouts on benefits, and I'm 76, getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them." (Guardian, 2 May)
Excuse us Sir Michael (formerly known as Mr Michaelwaite) if we wish you bon voyage - preferably in a very leaky ocean liner. RD

Who Owns the North Pole Part 16

See our companion blog Socialism or your Money Back for the most latest development on Russian expansionist policy statement

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

HOME, SWEET HOME?

" Home values in the United States extended their fall in the first quarter, with more than one in five homeowners now owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, real estate website Zillow.com said on Wednesday. U.S. home values posted a year-over-year decline of 14.2 percent to a Zillow Home Value Index of $182,378, resulting in a total 21.8 percent drop since the market peaked in 2006, according to Zillow's first-quarter Real Estate Market Reports, which encompass 161 metropolitan areas and cover the value changes in all homes, not just homes that have recently sold. U.S. homes lost $704 billion in value during the first quarter and have depreciated $3.8 trillion in the past 12 months, according to analysis of the reports. Declining home values left 21.9 percent of all American homeowners with negative equity by the end of the first quarter, Zillow said. By comparison, 17.6 percent of all homeowners owed more on their mortgage than their property was worth in the fourth quarter of 2008, and 14.3 percent were underwater in the third quarter of last year, the reports showed." (Yahoo News, 6 May) RD

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NOT SO BOASTFUL NOW

Not so many years ago it used to be the boast of industrialists and politicians alike "What is good for General Motors is good for America". This simplistic mantra was always trotted out in defence of capitalism during the post war boom of US industry and trade but supporters of US capitalism will have to look elsewhere for consolation today.
"General Motors, North America’s biggest carmaker, reported a $6bn first-quarter net loss and an accelerating cash drain on Thursday, underlining the pressure it faces to gain concessions from stakeholders or face bankruptcy. The troubled automaker warned that prolonged uncertainty over its financial condition risks creating a vicious circle of shaky consumer confidence and falling production and sales." (Financial Times, 7 May)
It is no sense in a "told you so" mood that socialists note the boom and slump nature of capitalism has asserted itself once more. After all it is our fellow workers in the US and elsewhere who will have to bear the prospect of unemployment, re-possession and insecurity. What we ask the working class to do is to consider the socialist alternative to this mad market system. We asked you to do so during the boom we continue to ask you to do so during the slump. RD

Monday, May 11, 2009

CONTRASTING LIFE STYLES

In the same day's newspaper we can read of the contrasting life styles of people inside capitalism. About 140,000 people died in the storms that raged through Burma. The poverty stricken survivors were at first denied aid from Unicef and Save the Children by the Burmese government. Eventually these organisations were admitted and attempted to give aid to the survivors including thousands of orphans. The begging bowl was passed round by charities desperate to aid these kids. Contrast that with another item on the same day. The champagne industry was concerned that some of its customers were finding it difficult to uncork their bottles, so no expense was spared in dealing with this problem. "Bruno de Saizieui, Alcan's commercial director, said: "At first we tried a screwtop but found that a symbolic noise was not there. It was our priority to keep this specific and evocative sound of champagne opening." After three years and 1 million euros (£885,000) in research, they came up with an aluminium device like that on beer bottles." (Times, 6 May)
The cry of starving orphans was drowned out by the "specific and evocative sound of champagne opening." Another tragic example of capitalism's priorities. RD

THEORY BECOMES PRACTICE

When the G20 leaders met in London to discuss the current economic crisis one of the theories about dealing with crisis they must have discussed would have been that of J.M. Keynes. He had argued that in the event of a downturn in the capitalist economy governments should spend more in order to boost confidence and spending power. Judging from recent reports they seem to have taken his advice to heart, though not in the way that Keynes meant.
"Taxpayers were left with a bill of around £500,000 for wining and dining the G20 leaders, their spouses and aides, it was reported today. The cost of a series of dinners laid on for dignitaries ahead of the 2 April summit in London added up to more than £66,000, with VIP guests drinking 136 bottles of wine worth £6,000, according to figures obtained by the Independent under the Freedom of Information Act." (Guardian, 7 May) RD

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Food for Thought 3

- Are workers better off than ever today? A moot point. It’s a fact that much of our wealth is derived from credit. Canada’s credit cards doubledto 68 million, 1998 to 2008, with 682 000 considered delinquent. Eventhough the present crisis is attributed to bad credit, the card offers arrive every week. The credit card is the golden goose that fueled massiveconsumer spending regardless of the consequences.
- We have no money for hospitals that are cramped by artificial budgets that constantly mean lay-offs, even for nurses. We have no money for education – can’t keep the swimming pools open that have been built into practically every Toronto school. We have no money to eradicate poverty,homelessness etc., but at the G20 meeting in London, one trillion dollars was found to fund IMF loans to countries in trouble, which means they will be in even greater trouble should they accept the loans. Generally, forevery dollar that is loaned to developing countries, $7 comes back, whichis why they will always be ‘developing’.
- Auto workers continue to take criticism, even from other workers, as the cause of their own demise, even though they, like all workers, have absolutely no say in what is produced, or how much. Their hourly wages are continually quoted by the capitalist press including their benefit package, although this is never done in any other case. The facts, of course, that they earn an average of $34/hour, are ignored. Consider this,in 1992, GM produced 4.4 million cars with a workforce of just under 300000. In 2007, GM produced 4.5 million vehicles with approximately one third of that work force. That kind of productivity must have brought massive profits from the workers’ efforts that should have resulted in a very financially strong company.
What happened?
John Ayers

Friday, May 08, 2009

May Dayschool 2009


Saturday 9 May 1.00pm till 5.00pm

Banks:Who needs them?


Capitalism in Crisis:

1.00 - 2.15pm 2009: The Year of Economic Crisis.

Speaker Brian Gardner
Glasgow Branch.

This year has seen the collapse of banks, of building societies and the closure of factories and retail outlets. As millions of workers throughout the world face the re-possessions of their homes and the grow-ing fear of unemployment we ask why the economic bubble has burst. We look at the various "solutions" that are offered to alleviate the problems and analyse what can be learned from previous eco-nomic slumps. Previously abandoned by political econo-mists the old ideas of Keynes have made a startling come-back to the extent that many politicians are now espousing his ideas as a solution to the present economic woes. We look at the problem from a Marxist viewpoint and con-sider whether these ideas have value in today’s context.

2.15 - 3.30pm The Environment in Meltdown?

Speaker, John Cumming
Glasgow Branch

How serious is the threat to the global environment? Is the melting of the polar ice pack a product of global warming caused by natural causes or the over production of carbon gases? Is the growing water shortage as serious as depicted and is there any possible solution? Is man-made pollution the cause of the threat to the world's oceans and the possible destruction of the marine food chain? All these inter-related pollution problems are examined from a socialist analysis and some of the proposed solutions are examined.

3.30 - 3.45pm Tea break


3.45 - 5pm Can Socialism Solve the problems?

Speaker Paul Bennett
Manchester Branch

Modern society has produced immense social problems. We have millions of people existing on less than a $1 a day in-side a system that could produce enough food, clothing and shelter to satisfy all human needs. We have magnificent ad-vances in human knowledge but seem incapable of solving problems like world hunger, poverty and war. Wealth today takes the form of commodities - articles produced for sale with a view to making a profit. The Socialist Party is unique in that its only aim is world socialism - a society where everything is produced solely to satisfy need not make a profit. How would this new society based on common ownership operate? Could it solve the problems of capitalism?

Looking forward to seeing you all there.

NUCLEAR NIGHTMARE

"Loss of control in nuclear-armed Pakistan threatened the world with the worst global crisis since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war, a senior former US diplomat warned on Tuesday. The stark warning comes as US President Barack Obama meets the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan at the White House on Wednesday to discuss efforts to stabilise their countries in the face of Islamist insurgencies. It also comes as the international community fears a possible breakdown in the security surrounding Pakistan’s 100 warhead nuclear arsenal and their capture by religious extremists."
(Financial Times, 5 May) RD

CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME


Richard Laing, CDC's chief executive, saw his income rise to £970,000 in 2007
"As the boss of the publicly owned company which invests billions of pounds of taxpayers' money to alleviate global poverty, Richard Laing is one of many dedicated to improving the finances of the poorest of the poor. But few engaged in the battle to relieve the suffering of the developing world can count on a pay package of nearly £1m as their reward. The "extraordinary" remuneration received by Mr Laing as chief executive of CDC Group Plc, a little-known investment body that is wholly owned by the Department for International Development and controls assets worth £2.7bn, is revealed today in a stinging report by the Westminster spending watchdog. Between 2003 and 2007, Mr Laing, a 55-year-old Cambridge engineering graduate, saw his income rise from £383,000 to £970,000 as investments in projects from a Nigerian shopping mall to a Chinese egg producer reaped handsome returns." (Independent, 30 April) RD

Thursday, May 07, 2009

WORDS OF WISDOM

Washington – More than 100 protesters upset with the way world leaders have handled the economic crisis clashed with police Saturday outside the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings. Authorities used batons and pepper spray when activists tried to march onto a prohibited street, and several people were pushed to the ground by police. The protesters swarmed officers unexpectedly, and police had to respond, said D.C. police Capt. Jeffrey Herold. ...Earlier, demonstrators tried to block three intersections, including an area near hotels where they said meeting delegates were staying. But in each case, the protesters were steered back to the sidewalk by police. Nicole Davis, 22, of Washington, who participated in one of the morning blockades outside a hotel, said police physically lifted her and nine other protesters and moved them from the street to the sidewalk. Davis said IMF and World Bank policies are hurting the poor."Capitalism clearly is not working," Davis said. "I think there needs to be a different system." (Yahoo News, 25 April) RD

THE FAILURE OF REFORMISM

The Socialist Party have always argued that a policy of reforming capitalism by a series of legislative acts while leaving intact the basis of this class divided society is doomed to failure. The Labour Party and other reformist organisations have maintained that this is the only way to deal with social problems. So what do these reformers make of the following report?
"Millions of people have been condemned to live under "social apartheid" by 30 years of poor housing policies, a damning report on council estates will say this week. The 107-page report, to be published on Friday, condemns successive governments for pushing poorer people into what it condemns as "social concentration camps" set away from private housing, jobs and shops. Children born on such estates are more likely to end up unemployed, suffer mental health problems and die younger than their counterparts in private housing, says the study by the Fabian Society. ... According to the Fabians, children bought up in social housing now have far fewer life chances than half a century ago, because they are concentrated on increasingly ghettoised estates. Those born after 1970 in council homes are twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems than those born in 1946 in public housing, 11 times more likely to be unemployed and not in training or education, and nine times more likely to live in a household where nobody has a job." (Independent, 3 May)
It is somewhat ironic that this report has been prepared by the Fabian - an organisation whose very basis is one of a policy of reformism! RD

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Food for Thought 2

- How is the War on Poverty going? Carol Goar’s column in the Star is titled “So Much Patience and Hope, So Little Momentum”.
The provincial government is long on talk, slow to act. The cabinet committee on poverty reduction was disbanded in December and its ‘commitments’ farmed out toother agencies, probably to be buried. As social assistance case loads spiked due to the recession, the Liberals began to back off and a split appeared between those who supported public hearings and those who didn’t want the public to hear more welfare recipients describing their lives.Goar writes, “There is a large gap between the government’s intentions and anti-poverty activists’ expectations.
Basically, nothing is happening,then.
- Pensioners, mainly auto workers, worried about their pensions, rallied at Queen’s Park recently to make a statement re pension guarantees that seem to be disappearing rapidly with the health of the auto companies. - Some employers are apparently taking advantage of the recession to fire pregnant women and disabled or injured workers on light duties. As the CBCradio parody went :
Boss: Come into the office for a conference.
Pregnant woman: Is there a problem?
Boss: We are terminating you.
Pregnant woman: You can’t do that, it’s against the law unless you are downsizing.
Boss: We’re downsizing now, starting with you!
- Reforms get us nowhere, like running on a treadmill. Time for theRevolution!
- Examples of how crapitalism functions
– 1. Bringing forward a malariaVaccine – for decades, malaria sufferers have been ignored and have died by the millions because the large pharmaceutical companies (just a few dominate the market) have ignored the problem because it’s not profitableto make drugs that poor people cannot afford to pay for. John Cohen, head biologist at Glaxo-Smith-Kline, is getting close, after 22 years of research (Toronto Star, 25/04/09). The question is, will it be availableto all sufferers, or just those who can pay? The article admits, “It also wasn’t a priority because a vaccine geared to Africa just isn’t amoney-maker for drug companies.” Could anything be more stupid?
2. A Toronto Star article (26/04/09) documents the demise of Toronto’s industrial area and lists the many factories that have closed there. A picture shows an older lady standing beside an electric stove, still operational and looking good, that she helped to build in the 1950s.Today, manufacturers give a one-year warranty and have a life expectancyof five to ten years. Two of the five new appliances I bought four years ago have broken down with major problems. The tendency to cheaper quality goods to enhance profits and damage the environment is plain for all to see.
3. The modern trend in almost every industrial sector, and, frighteningly, this includes prescription drugs, is to let the producer be the inspector of health and safety. A Toronto Star article (24/04/09)begins, “A senior federal veterinarian says Canada’s Food Safety Agency is compromising public health by putting slaughterhouse workers in charge of deciding when poultry is too diseased or contaminated for human consumption.” The proper veterinary training includes in-depth knowledgeof animal pharmacology, pathology, microbiology, virology and pathogeny.By contrast, meat plant workers assigned to reject potentially dangerous poultry are trained for four weeks, at most.
Works well for profit! Capital trumps common sense again!
John Ayers

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

SKIMMING MORE PROFIT

There is a popular concept of the medical professions as being above sordid commercialism and being motivated only by care for human suffering. However, we live inside a capitalist society where the profit motive pervades every field of human activity. This news item is an example of how this lust for profit can lead to unnecessary suffering, even death.
"Stocks of hundreds of medicines are running low as British pharmacies export UK supplies to profit from the weakness of the pound. Evidence has emerged that pharmacists are over-ordering drugs, a practice known as "skimming", with a view to selling the stock overseas and profiting from higher prices in foreign currencies. ...The wholesalers fear that the exports, which have led to temporary shortages, could potentially keep some patients from receiving the medicines they need in time and result in death." (Times, 4 May) RD

Monday, May 04, 2009

TROUBLE AHEAD?

"Norway's foreign minister on Tuesday called for peaceful cooperation in the Arctic as the region's five bordering countries vie for potentially lucrative natural resources. "High North, low tension," Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said prior to the opening of an international conference in the northern Norwegian town of Tromsoe on the Arctic's melting ice. "We will as responsible governments and coastal states be able to manage the challenges and opportunities of this region without gliding into conflict and negative competition," he told reporters. The US Geological Survey says the Arctic region could hold 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.The resources are expected to become increasingly accessible as the Arctic ice cap melts.The race for the riches -- which are still technically difficult to exploit -- has been accompanied by rising militarisation in the region. NATO has announced plans to play a growing role in the region, and Russia also plans to deploy military units there.Territorial claims in the Arctic came to the fore in 2007 when Russia planted its flag on the seabed some 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) beneath the North Pole."
(Yahoo News, 28 April) RD

TROUBLE DOWN UNDER

Australia will spend more than 70 billion US dollars boosting its defences over the next 20 years in response to a regional military build-up and global shifts in power, the government said. A long-term strategic blueprint for the future of Australia's armed forces warned that war could be possible in the Asia-Pacific region in the next two decades, as emerging powers such as China flexed their military might." (Yahoo News, 2 May) RD

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Food for Thought

The futility of Reform. --The auto workers are finding out with avengeance what a recession means to wages and benefits. What has been gained over decades has been tossed out of the window in a heartbeat. In a deal with GM, the union was forced to accept the loss of semi-private hospital coverage, tuition programs, some bonuses, savings on vehicle purchases, drug dispensing costs, financial protection during layoffs, relief time in plants, and allow more ‘flexibility’ in the use of part time workers. Chrysler, asked for even more – a reduction in labour costs of $19 per hour, among other things. John Ayers

Saturday, May 02, 2009

May Day School


May Day School

Banks:Who needs them?

More info? Click image or here

Saturday 9 May 1.00pm till 5.00pm
Capitalism in Crisis:

1.00 - 2.15pm 2009: The Year of Economic Crisis.
Brian Gardner (Glasgow Branch)

2.15 - 3.30pm The Environment in Meltdown?
John Cumming (Glasgow Branch)

3.30 - 3.45pm Tea break

3.45 - 5pm Can Socialism Solve the problems?
Paul Bennett (Manchester Branch)
Community Central Hall 304 Maryhill Road Glasgow

Today Edinburgh tomorrow..




SPGB members and sympathisers will be out and about at the Mayday rallies in Edinburgh and Glasgow this coming weekend, distributing Socialist Standards and leaflets .




Mayday belongs to the workers – we have a world to win, and we can win it.

LABOUR IN ACTION

LABOUR IN ACTION

The World Bank recently estimated that 2.8 million children could die by 2015 if the global financial crisis is not checked. Commenting on this the Prime Minister Gordon Brown commented: "It is as if the entire population of Rome were to die in the next five years." (Times, 21 February) This from the leader of the Labour Party who vigorously defend the killer society that is the buying and selling of capitalism. Hypocrisy cannot go further surely when Gordon Brown suspends parliament debate because of the death of the child of one of his opponents in a vote catching move. He will not of course suspend the running of capitalism or its parliament about the possible death of 2.8 million kids.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A DANGEROUS SOCIETY

Stoked by the relentless drive for profits every developed capitalist nation in the world is armed to the teeth in preparation for possible armed conflict with its rivals. Now it transpires that it is not only its rivals that should fear this growing arms race. Radioactive waste from the Faslane base is polluting the Clyde near the large city of Glasgow.
"Britain's nuclear submarine fleet has been hit by a series of serious safety breaches involving repeated leaks of radioactive waste, broken pipes and waste tanks at its home base on the Clyde, the Ministry of Defence has disclosed. In a confidential report released under the Freedom of Information Act, the MoD has admitted that safety failings at the UK's main nuclear submarine base at Faslane, near Glasgow, are a "recurring theme" and ingrained in the base's culture. The worst breaches include three leaks of radioactive coolant from nuclear submarines in 2004, 2007 and 2008 into the Firth of Clyde, while last year a radioactive waste plant manager was replaced. It emerged he had no qualifications in radioactive waste management."
(Guardian, 27 April) Truly, capitalism is a dangerous society. RD